Managed Projects Usability Improvements (New Feature Summary)

Created: August 22, 2016 | Updated: December 14, 2017
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Altium Designer, in conjunction with Altium Vault (3.0 or later), provides an improved approach to creating and working with Altium Designer Managed Projects and the release of their manufacturing output data.

Managed Projects are an advanced project construct that harnesses the capabilities of the Altium Vault’s version control, lifecycle management and user access control to create a sophisticated project storage and management foundation. Within the Vault, a Managed Project is inherently associated with its released production data, with both the design source and manufacturing output available from a single unified location.

Altium Designer works with Managed Projects by providing simplified, direct access to the Vault-based project data, while offering a host of advanced management features through its Vault interfaces. The approach to using Managed Projects parallels that of using local file based projects, yet is far more intuitive than the methodology required for traditional version control and storage systems – and as a bonus, it is fully integrated with the advanced features of Altium Designer and the Altium Vault.

Note that you need to be signed in to a suitably licensed Altium Vault to create Managed Projects.

Create a Managed Project

A Managed Project can be created through Altium Designer’s standard New Project dialog (File » New » Project) by selecting the Managed option from the Project Kind drop down menu, and then (optionally) defining suitable target names. The automated settings are derived from the nominated project Name entry.

The preselected Repository target is the Vault’s own associated data repository – the DefaultRepository, which is created during the Vault installation – while the Repository and Vault folder names will match that of the project Name.

The default target settings will suit most circumstances, but can be edited in their respective dialog fields:

  • Repository – Use the drop down menu to select from the SVN repositories that are available in the Vault server. This will include any other Vault server repositories that have been created through the Vault web interface (ADMIN » VCS) – which, like the DefaultRepository, are ‘internal’ repositories that use the svn protocol over TCP/IP. Click the associated button to configure Altium Designer’s connections to Vault server repositories.
  • Repository Folder – Enter a new folder name to store the project in a different repository folder. The folder is automatically created along with the managed project, but can also be created in advance through the Add to Version Control dialog opened by the associated button.
  • Vault Folder – Enter a new folder name/path to create the project entry in a different Vault folder. The folder is automatically created along with the managed project, but can also be created in advance through the Choose Folder dialog (right-click to access the Add folder functions) opened by the associated button.

Instigating the create Managed Project process establishes the project structure in the Vault and opens the new project in Altium Designer. At this point the project can be edited and new documents added (Schematic, PCB etc), or the project simply saved (committed) to the Vault for later editing.

Commit the project, and any edits, to the Vault using the Save Managed Project command, available from the right-click context menu of the project name. In the following Commit to Version Control dialog, select the documents you would like to include in the Managed Project and add an optional Comment.

The saved and committed Managed Project is accessible by Altium Designer or through the Vault browser interface, where its properties (including access permissions and group assignments) can be managed.

The structure for a Managed Project can also be created through the Vault browser interface. Select under the Projects tab, and then when added, use the button to open the project for editing in Altium Designer.

Convert to a Managed Project

An existing Altium Designer project, including one already under external version control, can be converted to a Vault-based Managed Project.

To convert the active project, right-click on its project name and select Convert to Managed Project from the context menu. In a similar way to creating a new Managed Project, the convert process first creates the structure in a Vault Repository and the project is then committed (saved) to the Vault.

In the initial Convert to managed project dialog, change the settings and entries as required, including the target Repository. The Repository drop down menu will offer the list of Repositories that are hosted by the Vault server.

Alternatively, for an Altium Designer project that is under version control in an ‘external’ Repository – one not hosted by the Vault server – the conversion process will default to using this Repository for version controlled file storage. The Managed Project added to the Vault is ultimately accessed and managed like any other.

In the initial Convert to managed project dialog, the target Repository can be changed from the external source Repository to one hosted by the Vault server (such as the DefaultRepository), through the Design Repositories Preferences page, accessed via the dialog’s Design Repositories button ( ).

Once the convert step has been completed (for either type of project) it can be committed to the Vault. In the same way as when a new project is committed to the Vault (see above), select Save Managed Project from the project name right-click context menu to complete the process.

Open a Managed Project

A Managed Project can be opened in Altium Designer from the Vaults panel, directly from the main menu, or through the Vault web interface.

The simplest approach is via the Open Managed Project dialog (File » Open Managed Project), which provides a simple interface to the available Managed Projects in the Vault. Select and Open a project to load (check out) a copy in Altium Designer.

The dialog includes an incremental (filter as you type) Search field, and the project listings offer a configurable range of information parameters for each entry – drag and drop the column headings to rearrange their order. To add or remove parameter columns, right click on a heading to open the Select Columns dialog with the Select Columns context command.

The dialog also provides the option of opening a Managed Project in a local directory other than the default, as defined by the connection properties for the Design Repository that is hosting that project. The properties for connected repositories can be accessed through the Data Management – Design Repositories page of the Preferences dialog (DXP » Preferences).

To select an alternative local directory when opening a managed project, choose the Open to custom path option in the Open Managed Project dialog, and navigate to the desired target folder.

A warning dialog will open if the Managed Project has already been opened in another local directory. Also, note that the new custom path setting will be retained by the project.

A Managed Project that is selected in the Vaults panel (DXP » Vault Explorer) can be opened in Altium Designer from the panel’s Open button, when in the Project View mode. Similarly, in the Vault browser interface, select the project under the Projects tab, and then use the Open button to load the project in Altium Designer.

Project Management

Both the Vault web (browser) interface and Altium Designer’s Vaults panel offer a dedicated Project view, which provides information on the state of a Managed Project and included several project management functions.

Project information

The Project view (rather than the Classic View, in the Vaults panel) provides information on the selected project through a series of selectable tabs.

The tab options are:

  • Stream – A running log of events that have occurred with the selected project.
  • Releases – A list of project Releases linked to the selected Managed Project, which includes incremental filter fields in each column header and details of the released packages. Use the button to download an archived (ZIP) file of selected release packages. Read about Altium Designer's Project Releaser.
  • Working Files – A list of documents and files included in the selected Managed Project. Use the  button to download an archived (ZIP) file containing the project's constituent files.
  • Structure – A graphical representation, with selectable links to each Item Revision in the Vault, of the project’s stages from design through to manufacturing output. This includes the design Project itself (PROJECT), the data released from that project (SOURCES) and the generated project outputs (FABRICATION and ASSEMBLY VARIANTS). The assembly data for any Design Variants included in the design are also included in the ASSEMBLY VARIANTS box.

In the Structure view, the Item Revision entries in each box (Project, Sources etc) link to their released revisions – shown in the Classic view in the Vaults panel, or under the VAULT view in the browser interface.

Project functions

The Project view in the Vaults panel (or the PROJECT tab in the browser interface) also offers project functions that apply to the overall Managed Project.

The function buttons are:

  • Edit – Select to edit the Managed Project’s details such as its Name and Description. The additional fields link in the Edit Project dialog exposes entries for the project’s Vault and Repository locations/names. These are locked for a released project, and are established during the initial creation of the project and its target Vault Item.
  • Share – Set the permissions, and therefore the availability to other Users, of the current project. Shared access can be defined for individual Users or Roles (groups of Users), or set to be available for all Users (Public). A project can also be set to read-only for specific Users/Roles.
  • UnWatch – A Managed Project is set to a Watched state by default, where the project author will be alerted when the project is edited by another Altium Designer User. The Unwatch button disables this function for the selected project.
  • Clone – Create a duplicate of the current Managed Project. The cloned project is renamed and hosted in different Repository and Vault folders, where all names/paths are appended with - Copy. Rename these to suit during the process, in the Clone Project dialog.
  • Remove – Delete the selected Managed Project from the Vault. Note that while the Managed Project and its Releases are removed, the host Item remains in the Repository.  If desired, this can be deleted in the panel’s Classic view (or in the browser interface VAULT view) by selecting Delete Item from the Items right-click context menu.
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